October 25, 2023

Warren Chairs Banking Subcommittee Field Hearing in Lowell, Highlights Impacts of Federal Infrastructure Funding for Massachusetts

Warren and Markey Joined By Massachusetts Governor Healey, Local Union and Education Leaders, and Officials from Federal Departments of Energy and Transportation 

Video of Hearing

Boston, MA – In case you missed it, on Friday, October 20, 2023, chairing a hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Policy, held at UMass Lowell, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) highlighted how historic federal infrastructure funding she has fought for has benefitted Massachusetts and its residents. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) also joined Senator Warren at the hearing to question federal, state, and local leaders. 

Dr. Kathleen Hogan, Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Infrastructure at the U.S. Department of Energy and Carlos Monje, Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy in the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation testified about the historic nature of the Biden administration’s landmark infrastructure laws: the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the CHIPS and Science Act – which will help fund repairs and replacements of roads and bridges across the Commonwealth, public transit, and passenger rail, and support groundbreaking clean energy research from Massachusetts companies and universities. 

Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey testified that Massachusetts has aggressively worked and planned to demonstrate its willingness and ability to partner with the federal government in infrastructure projects. This includes the Governor’s recent executive order the Federal Funds and Infrastructure Office (FFIO) which is geared towards enhancing the Commonwealth’s ability to compete for the historic amounts of federal funding made available to Massachusetts by the Biden Administration. Since President Biden has taken office, the Commonwealth has received more than $8 billion in federal government infrastructure funds.

Lou Antonellis, Business Manager and Financial Secretary of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 103, Dr. Mary Bourque, Co-Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, and UMass Lowell Chancellor Julie Chen testified that federal infrastructure funds are creating thousands of new union jobs across the Commonwealth, replacing diesel school buses with green school buses, expanding broadband access for students and rural communities, and funding groundbreaking research at universities.

Transcript: The Economic Impact of Federal Investments in Massachusetts
U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Policy
Friday, October 20, 2023 

Senator Warren's Opening Remarks

Senator Elizabeth Warren: This hearing will come to order.

Good afternoon, and welcome to today’s hearing on The Economic Impact of Federal Investments in Massachusetts. This is a hearing of the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Policy. I chair this subcommittee, which oversees issues of economic growth in this country.

Given this subcommittee’s focus, it’s no surprise that we’re here today to talk about one of the key drivers of economic growth: public investment.

One of the most important things I do every day as a senator is make sure that federal government officials are aware of the Commonwealth’s needs, and that our communities, our residents, and our small businesses get the federal support they need. To get that done, I work with my partner Ed Markey, who tirelessly advocates for Massachusetts in the Senate, and with our hardworking House partners, including Congresswoman Lori Trahan from right here in Lowell. Now, in Washington, we’ve also worked with everyone, both Republicans and Democrats, to deliver for our Commonwealth.

In just the last two-and-a-half years, we’ve worked with President Biden on historic legislation to bring nearly $8 billion in federal funding for projects to expand our infrastructure, public safety, research, and transportation projects right here in Massachusetts.

With President Biden and the leadership of Democrats in Congress, our nation has made truly historic investments. The American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, the CHIPS and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act. Four bills, two passed with Republican support, and two passed entirely by Democrat. Four bills that have delivered money to fund hundreds of projects and thousands of jobs here in Massachusetts. 

This work has made a difference that can be seen all around the state. 

We’ve supported firefighters with over $270 million in federal funding. 

We’ve secured $185 million in federal funding to help connect every home, school, and business in Massachusetts with affordable broadband. 

We’ve fought for funding to repair and replace aging infrastructure and bridges that pose safety risks to drivers, pedestrians, and businesses, including, right here in Lowell, the Broadway Street, Market Street, Lawrence Street, and Swamp Locks Pedestrian bridges, and roads and highways all across the Commonwealth. 

As we discussed earlier today, we have secured commitments for hundreds of millions of dollars to begin replacement of the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges on Cape Cod.

We have invested in public transit, including federal funding for the Green Line extension, our ongoing work to make sure the T is safe and reliable, and $275 million in federal support for transit capital and operating expenses, funding for transit systems in Barnstable, Springfield, Worcester, and other cities and rural communities throughout the state. 

We’re supporting clean energy and a clean environment. We fought for and won $1.5 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for the EPA’s Brownfields Program, and now 14 communities here in the Commonwealth, including Worcester, Berkshire, Springfield, Ware, and Westford, have received federal grants to clean up polluted, abandoned and neglected properties and redevelop them into meaningful community assets.  

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill created the Clean School Bus Program. Last year, five Massachusetts school districts, Fall River, Lawrence, Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative, New Bedford, and Upper Cape Cod Regional Vocational Technical, received nearly $30 million through the program to buy dozens of clean, new, electric school buses.  And there’s more money on the way. 

We’ve fought for billions of dollars in new funding for research and innovation, including nearly doubling the funding for the National Science Foundation. Together, the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health have supported thousands of jobs here in Massachusetts and thousands of scientists at all of our great research institutions, including nearly $12 million in funding right here at UMass Lowell. 

Last year, we learned that the Department of Energy was providing two Massachusetts companies, 6K Inc. and Ascend Elements, more than $530 million for innovative battery manufacturing, recycling, and materials processing. 

All of this federal support means that Massachusetts will continue to be a leader in research and innovation, building a cleaner future for our children and grandchildren and creating thousands of good-paying jobs here at home. 

And there’s more. This year, with the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, we secured legislative earmarks worth nearly $225 million to support 160 community projects across Massachusetts. I just have to name a few. Funding for Home Base and Massachusetts General Hospital so that we can support the families of fallen veterans, funding for childcare services for homeless families in Boston, funding for the North Shore Workforce and Career Mobility Program in Salem, funding for Cape Abilities to support adults with significant disabilities, and dozens more projects like these.

Governor Healey and her administration have been strong partners, helping to identify needs, and doing everything they can to identify, plan, prepare for, and implement infrastructure and other projects that receive federal funding. I am extraordinarily glad that she’s going to be able to join us today.

The Biden administration has worked to pass historic, bipartisan legislation, and then officials have been working just as hard as anybody to set up and implement these programs. I appreciate Dr. Kathleen Hogan, from the Department of Energy, and Carlos Monje from the Department of Transportation joining us today to testify about their work.

And finally, we’ve heard from and listened to, and worked with leaders in local communities to make sure their needs are met. And I appreciate Dr. Bourque, the Co-Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, Dr. Chen, the Chancellor right here at UMass Lowell, and Mr. Lou Antonellis, from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who took the time today to give us their firsthand account of how this federal support makes a difference for families, small businesses, schools, and communities all over the Commonwealth. 

So, thank you all for being with us today. 

Panel 1 with Federal Officials

Senator Warren: Thank you very much. 

And I, again, I appreciate both of you being here and appreciate all the money you’re bringing.

So, we're talking about billions of dollars of investments here. And there are dozens of ways that these investments are going to help families and small businesses and communities all around the Commonwealth. But, I just want to start with transportation. 

Mr. Monje, you help oversee transportation policy for the Department of Transportation for our whole country. You've worked in a lot of different jobs in federal government for more than two decades. And, I just thought you'd be perfectly situated to explain a little bit about the scale of what's going on here. 

When you think about your career in public service, how significant is the federal investment in transportation projects that is occurring now, under the Biden administration? 

Carlos Monje, Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy, U.S. Department of Transportation: It's historic. You mentioned once in a generation, it might be once in a lifetime. And it’s certainly, for many of us at the Department of Transportation, something we've – and they for much longer – worked their entire careers to do. 

We've got more money for roads and bridges since the creation of the Eisenhower system. More money for transit in the history of the Republic, More money for rail since the creation of Amtrak. You know, and and to think of where we started at the beginning of this administration in the depths of the pandemic, Congress wisely put a lot of resources that we put into place to save the aviation industry, to save the transit agencies all across the country. And, as a result, you know, 14 million jobs have been created during this administration and 336,000, just in the last month. And, you know, we've got more jobs for women, for people of color, for people with disabilities in decades.

Senator Warren: More good union jobs?

Under Secretary Monje: Union jobs. It is a golden age for unions, and also the lowest inflation of any major economy in the country – in the world.

Senator Warren: So, I tell you what, we'll get back to some of these. I just want to make sure we get this laid out, because we also did some research on this. 

This is the largest federal investment in public transit effort ever. It is the largest federal investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak. It is the single largest dedicated investment in bridges since the construction of the Interstate Highway System. So, all powerfully important. 

Can I ask you, I just want to drill down on one of these. And that's bridge funding, which has been particularly important right here in Lowell. 

Mr. Monje, how much federal funding is Massachusetts set to receive through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for bridge replacement and repairs?

Under Secretary Monje: Yes, ma'am. 

Just in terms of federal highway formula dollars, it's $5.4 billion over five years. And that's $243.5 million for each of the fiscal years for just the bridge formula funding. 

And, as you know, Massachusetts, before the bill was passed there, 472 bridges and more than 1,100 miles of highway that were in poor conditions. And that's just the formula dollars. I have a list in this packet somewhere of just a sentence on each project that has one discretion in grants – 14 pages, 14 pages are the projects – and I have to have a shorthand if you ask on any of them because there's just so many Massachusetts's is competing and winning for the for these dollars, and it's doing extremely well. And that's combined with money that's coming from the Commonwealth as well. The next generation Bridges Program. 

Senator Warren: That is terrific. And it is also good to see that we are pouring money in to make sure that our public transit system is greener. 

Today, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has awarded Massachusetts about $135 million for clean transit buses and improved bus service through a Department of Transportation program aimed at helping state and local governments purchase either zero-emission or low-emission buses and the facilities needed to support these buses. 

Mr. Monje, could I just ask you, is investing in low-emission or zero-emission buses something that if we didn't do this at the federal level, then the state and local governments typically would be able to pick it up on their own and make that transition from old dirty diesel buses to these clean new buses?

Under Secretary Monje: No, ma'am. 

I think the federal investments are critical and, as you know, that we've provided a record investment of $1 billion a year – that's six times what we were funding before. And these vehicles are critical. 

We've already awarded grants to build more than 1,800 American made zero-emission buses and Massachusetts again is competing and winning, including a recent grant here that's going to purchase seven zero-emission buses. It is critical and a key piece of decarbonizing the sector. 

Senator Warren: Yes, and I want to add, I really appreciate the Department of Transportation. Not only is it helping us replace the buses, it is also helping build the facilities so you've got charging stations and can actually keep them up and running. So, we're reducing the cost for our towns on this.

I also want to ask about what it means to be unlocking scientific advances that will fuel the next generation of energy technology. 

I feel like, in this area, Massachusetts has no equal. We have researchers at UMass Lowell and MIT and Northeastern who are already using federal funding to develop new semiconductor materials, to test and monitor drinking water for communities across the Commonwealth, and to create academic networks to increase engineering degrees among underrepresented groups. 

You know, government-supported research has long been a critical ingredient in generating innovation that supercharges our economy. And that's why one of my top goals, from the day I was elected to the Senate, has been to double the funding for the National Science Foundation, which is our government's premier research program for scientific research. And, it's also why I introduced legislation called the National Institutes of Clean Energy Act, to invest $400 billion in a system of institutes at the Department of Energy, dedicated to research and development of advanced clean energy technology. 

Now, The CHIPS and Science Act, which Congress passed last year, set up a program very similar to the one I have proposed. When fully funded, it will send billions of dollars to the Department of Energy to invest in basic scientific research related to clean energy technologies. 

Dr. Hogan, we often talk in fields like biology or chemistry how basic research can unlock advances, for example, in treating cancer. How does the work that our research universities and our national laboratories do on basic science of energy help us in the long run to fight climate change? 

Dr. Kathleen Hogan, PhD, Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Infrastructure, U.S. Department of Energy: What a just a great question, as we sit here and talk about, sort of, putting technology to work today. 

Senator Warren: School buses. 

Deputy Under Secretary Hogan: What we're not talking about is why these technologies are here today. And it's because of the work we did in basic science, many years ago, right? 

So, think about the materials discovery-side of things as one example. And you're already talking about what's going into semiconductors. So, basic science is really just critical to us keeping a pace with the solutions of the future. 

And, you know, we talk about the revolution we are going through right now with electric vehicles. And, you know, but we have more work to do there. I mean, they're great now, but they can keep being better, right? So, we can have better materials, lower costs, more variety, etc. And it does go back to the work we need to do with basic science. 

One of the efforts we're very excited about at the Department of Energy that we've launched is our eight Energy Earthshots. 

So, what's behind those Earthshots? It's really putting together really difficult goals for the future around some of the hardest issues in addressing the climate problem. And, a way to put our arms around the discovery you need to do in basic science and pull it together with our applied science programs at the Department. Because again, these are all part of what we need to do to make as quick progress we can on these very important problems. 

Senator Warren: That is terrific. And I just want to dig a little deeper actually on one piece of that. And that is how federal funding helps us grow our economy. And I'm thinking right now about batteries and the work that's being done around batteries. 

The Department of Energy has created, out of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this energy innovation hub focused on spring innovations about batteries. Now, batteries are going to be critical to our clean energy goals, particularly when it comes to transition to electric vehicles. 

Dr. Hogan, can you just say a word about why federal funding for something as basic as batteries is so important to accelerate the growth of the electric vehicle market? 

Deputy Under Secretary Hogan: Yeah, absolutely. 

And thank you for that because, again, we're living through this. And, there's so many things we need to get right as we do this. We want people, you know, we want there to be a lot of accessibility to the batteries. So, when you bring federal funding to the table more people can have access to high quality batteries. You know, this is kind of a global thing that is going on right now and for us to play in this country and have as many people play as possible, it takes the money to make that happen so that we're not left behind. 

So, there's the accessibility issue that is critical. But, the other very important opportunity we have in front of us at the manufacturing of all of these batteries, and both for transportation and for our grid as well. 

You know, with the help of the investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we will be increasing the supply of the whole battery supply chain in this country in many corners of the country. 

Senator Warren: So, that was my third question. 

So it's basic research, its batteries. But, could you say a little bit more about how the work you're doing is also about supply chains and why this is so critical to a clean future? 

Deputy Under Secretary Hogan: Yeah, so I've talked a little bit about how, you know, there's, this is a global change. As we know, there's lots of countries that then have the opportunity to pick up the new investments and then, sort of, own that part of the supply chain chain. This is our opportunity in this country to cement and secure our energy supply chains around batteries and other clean energy opportunities, as well. 

We talked about onshore and reshoring, or just making sure it’s made here as we grow out some of these new opportunities. So, that's really the critical aspect of this. And we don't have to say the word geopolitical issues too much, I think, to really underscore why it's so important to get this right, right now. 

Senator Warren: That's really terrific. Thank you, Dr. Hogan. Thank you both. Really appreciate your being here. 

Panel 2 with Governor Maura Healey 

Senator Warren: Thank you. It’s terrific to have you here today.

Your administration has hit the ground running and we are proud to be your partners in making sure that the federal government in Washington is providing the resources needed to support both infrastructure and economic development right here in the Commonwealth.

Now, we’ve been talking all day about the historic scale of federal investments that have been made during President Biden’s first two years in office. Everything from bridges to scientific research to public transit. 

But as unprecedented as these investments are, there is still a limited number of federal dollars available. That means there is fierce competition all across the country to bring these dollars home. 

In many cases, states and localities must demonstrate that they are willing to bring their funds to the table to combine with federal dollars in order to receive a federal grant. 

Governor Healey, can you just say a little about, how did you approach the task of making sure that Massachusetts would have the matching funds that it would need to be competitive to win federal grants?

Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey: I appreciate the question and could not agree more as to your characterization of the fierceness of the competitions among our sister states, and also cities chasing hard after these federal dollars. And again, unprecedented funding available through the actions of the Biden-Harris administration and through the work of you all in Congress. So you know, it was our estimate that there's about $17.5 billion dollars available in federal funding. The combined applications require as much as $3 billion in state matching funds to be eligible to maximize how much we might be able to be awarded. So $3 billion in the state obligation altogether. We've already got 2 billion. We worked hard to put 2 billion and make that available for this purpose. And just yesterday, we took another big step forward. 

And what we did is file legislation specifically to create what we're calling a capital investment and debt reduction fund. This will allow us to leverage the interest that has accrued and what is a historically high stabilization fund, and use that money to support PAYGO funding. Its capital in hand. We estimate that over the next three years, it will be able to unlock approximately $800 million in resources that can be applied to pursue federal funding opportunities. Importantly, it will also include $50 million for municipal matching grants in a local infrastructure bank. And this is a resource that our cities and towns can use to finance infrastructure projects and support federal grant applications. 

So that's one thing that I wanted you to know about in terms of our ability to compete. It's making sure that we show the state has skin in the game, that we're doing our part in making not just words, but action and money available to pursue and leverage, maximize opportunities for federal funding. Also, you know, it was very important to create the director position, create the Office of Federal Funds and Infrastructure. It is a whole of government approach that we are using to make sure that that office is working with every single secretariat and agency both to help identify federal funding opportunities, to help our teams make and put forth the very best application for those funding opportunities, and to track things. 

We also formed an advisory council because we know how important it is for teams to be meeting regularly. This is a biweekly interagency coordination effort so that we're holding one another accountable throughout the administration. They also maintain a state clearinghouse for tracking federal grant opportunities and agency applications. And we recently established as well a federal funds partnership for municipalities and tribes. We thought this was very important because we need to make sure that our cities and towns, our tribes, our regional planning authorities have the support that they need, first off, that they know what's available, because as we know, not every city or town, or tribe has the bandwidth to be able to spend the time to identify federal funding opportunities, say nothing of the infrastructure to actually do the work in completing applications. 

So we wanted to make sure that we were helping them both identify and then make those applications. Those are just some of the things that we've done that I think have put us in a position to really rally Team Massachusetts. And I think you're not afraid of sports analogies. I know both of you. 

Senator Warren: We're fine with those.

Governor Healey: That team spirit is really something we're trying to promote. I think it's one of the reasons we were able to win ARPA-H, because we really rallied through this team Massachusetts approach bringing together their business, academic, nonprofit, labor communities, to show who we are, show what we're capable of in Massachusetts.

Senator Warren: I just want to say – you’ve only been here nine months and that really is extraordinary because we’re talking about the unprecedented amount of money that’s available, but this money is not available just because someone puts it in a nice big box, puts a ribbon on top, and hands it over. People have to go out and compete for it and you and your team have just done an extraordinary job of lining up Massachusetts and Massachusetts schools, Massachusetts towns, Massachusetts institutions, Massachusetts companies to take maximum advantage of every federal dollar that you could get your hands on.

And all I can say is, Ed and I are there all the way with you on this. I’m just going to ask you one more question and then hand it over to Senator Markey. And that is – we’ve talked a lot about the bridges, we’ve talked some about transit – both mass transit, school buses, and so on. Where else are federal resources needed to help grow the economy in the Commonwealth?

Governor Healey: Well, I –

Senator Warren: We always want to ask for more. 

Governor Healey: No, and I always will. All of the areas that you mentioned are very important. I would add to that coastal resilience in lieu of the severity of the storms that we've seen and the impact on existing and antiquated infrastructure, we really need help in that area as well. I would – I mentioned our greenhouse gas reduction fund for a reason. This is a generational opportunity here and now states are eligible to compete for the Solar for All program to really accelerate solar deployment. Our team, my team, identified places in Massachusetts where there's more capacity for solar. So we have the capacity, but the question is, how do we actually get this built, and so we need assistance in the federal resources to make that happen. 

Our climate bank has identified nearly 30,000 affordable rental homes that are eligible to be retrofitted with EPA funding over the next five years and this is really important in terms of investment. Some of our infrastructure needs statewide? Williamsburg. I look at the Williamsburg Route 9 reconstruction. And you know, it's important. We applied for $44 million to help with rural surface transportation. This would modernize and reconstruct Route 9. It’s a critical east-west freight route in the region that is very important that has safety and resilience needs. We also applied for another infrastructure improvement project that travels along a part of Route 7 that goes over the Kampoosa Brook in Stockbridge, and this requests $2.8 million in federal funding combined with $630,000 of state funds to replace a drainage system and allow for the safe passage of wildlife, including nine state listed rare species, which also supports our biodiversity goals. 

We have applications out for a U.S. DOT PROTECT grant funds. These would, again central to flood protection in places like Route 20 in Worcester, at the exchange of Route 20 and Grafton Street, on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester, as well as a statewide planning study to identify more flood prone transportation infrastructure needs. So those are just some of the areas that come to mind. I mean, there's no shortage of work that we need to do. I can't be here in the proximity to the Merrimack without mentioning the work that we need to do in the Merrimack in terms of shoring up some of the CSOs and the other infrastructure along the banks. Efforts were made to really clean up that river and unfortunately with antiquated infrastructure, and now the inability of municipalities and towns to really come up with the funds to deal with it, we don't want to go backwards and I just want to point that out as we're in close proximity here.

Senator Warren: Thank you. You can see it out the window. 

Panel 3 with Local Leaders

Senator Warren: Thank you. Thank you so much. That’s a terrific statement, Dr. Bourque. 

So we've been talking about the importance of infrastructure. It's about traffic. It's about clean air. It's about clean water. It's about building a future. It's about our research, but it's also about jobs. And I want to focus on that for just a minute because we haven't had as much conversation on it. 

I was looking at the stats on the Boston Logan Airport renovation. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law set aside a billion dollars to improve airports around the country. Logan Airport received the largest grant of any major airport in the entire nation, and it's being used and has been used to fund the work on terminal E. 

Mr. Antonellis, you're a labor leader here in Massachusetts. Tell me who's carrying out the work at Logan to modernize Terminal E.

Lou Antonellis, Business Manager and Financial Secretary, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 103: Sure, the new renovations at Terminal E Logan, hundreds of millions of dollars and transportation infrastructure investments, and I believe much of it  — I thinks $62 million provided by President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill — and union construction firms including IBEW contractors and members are still out there working. I know they had a ribbon cutting last week, but there was still work to do. There was about 1,000 total construction–

Senator Warren: A 1,000 total construction jobs!

Mr. Antonellis: Created on that one project, engineering and construction jobs, and about 150 to 200 electrical specific electrical telecommunications jobs created for IBEW men and women. In fact, my son is an IBEW apprentice, and he is an employee on that job. So, it hits home for me that job. I'm very excited about the investments at the airport. 

Senator Warren: That is terrific. 

Mr. Antonellis: Yeah. 

Senator Warren: And not just 1000 jobs, but 1000 good union jobs. 

Mr. Antonellis: That’s right. 

Senator Warren: That's terrific, and jobs that are being used for apprentices as well. That is terrific. 

So when President Biden came to Boston to announce this investment, he said, “Logan is more than an airport. It's an economic engine.”

Chancellor Chen, I want to ask you, you lead UMass Lowell, so this may seem like an odd question. But is it important to the university here in Lowell that Boston has a world class airport?

Julie Chen, PhD, Chancellor, University of Massachusetts Lowell: Definitely. 

And, I would say two words: Nonstop flights. 

We all know, having nonstop flights between Boston and San Francisco and LA and Seattle, and of course, DC, and international, London, Paris, right? Tokyo. San Paolo. This enables our faculty, staff and students to be connected to partners across the world and across the country. And, that's what enables us to be at the forefront of new discoveries, and also attract companies to want to come here, right? 

They think about where they're going to locate. Well, they can take a quick flight from where they are currently to Massachusetts, it makes a huge difference. And then, thinking about where do I want to locate, and we want them to be here in Massachusetts, working with our students, faculty and staff.

Senator Warren: Great. So airports are a great example, but airports are not the only example of jobs that have been funded through these new investments in infrastructure. 

Mr. Antonellis, can you just name a few other major projects that your members are working on right now that have benefited from federal dollars?

Mr. Antonellis: Sure. I know the MBTA gets a lot of bad headlines.

Senator Warren: Yeah, deservedly.

Mr. Antonellis: Right. But at the end of the day, the MBTA receives a lot of federal dollars and puts a lot of hardworking Massachusetts residents to work. And, we would be lost without those jobs at the MBTA. Maintenance jobs and construction jobs. And, I know bus electrification would have been talking about four major bus electrification projects coming at the MBTA. 

One recent bid in Quincy, that we talked about a massive project at the old low site. And then there's one coming in Cambridge, one in Jamaica Plain, and we're very excited about doing the work, bus electrification work, as well as in the city of Boston for the school buses to electrify them.

Senator Warren: Yeah, and I know, look, I’m aggravated with the T right now, so are a lot of people, but this is how we make it better. And it's not going to get better on its own. It's only gonna get better if we make the investment and we have good workers there straightening this out, and I appreciate the work.

Mr. Antonellis: We need safe, reliable public transportation. We do.

Senator Warren: We need it.

Mr. Antonellis: Desperately.

Senator Warren: That's exactly right. Exactly right. 

Another piece, and you picked up on this Dr. Bourque, that's exciting about the investments in infrastructure is helping electrify the local school bus fleets. And last June, I sent a letter to the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, you may remember this, highlighting the benefits of electrifying the Commonwealth school bus fleet and encouraging members of your association to take full advantage of the EPA’s newly announced $5 billion investment in the Clean School Bus grants program. 

I just, you got part way there, but I just want to give you a minute to say something more about it. Why do we need to care about bringing school buses? After all, the kids can get delivered on those old diesel school buses. Why does it matter so much?

Dr. Mary Bourque, EdD, Co-Executive Director, Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents: Air impacts everything. It seems very evident, but we have to really consider the fact that our students are breathing in toxins from the diesel fuel. And, we really, we know some from science in terms of what the impact is on a young person's body, but they end up coming into the classroom and the cognitive brain function might be a little bit slow for a while, certainly the motivation might be impacted, the energy level that you want from a learner. And so then, it's that difficulty to engage in learning, to take academic risks. And so most certainly, it's about wanting the best for our students and it begins with air.

Senator Warren: Yeah, I like that. I like that. 

I also want to pick up. You made the point about access to computers and the kids having access, and very important, but I was thinking as well about the gaps in high speed internet access. You know, the Commonwealth's highest income counties, more than 70% of residents have high speed internet, but out in Berkshire County, the number drops to 39%. Fewer than half a fewer than half of the residents in Franklin County and Hampshire County have access to broadband. And, I think that's one of the reasons that another exciting part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and the American Rescue Plan is the massive investment in broadband, to finish, to get broadband everywhere. $90 billion, the largest federal investment in high speed internet in our nation's history. 

So, Dr. Bourque, you work with school superintendents across the Commonwealth. Can you just say a little bit more, you talked about the computers themselves, but what it means to have access to broadband?

Dr. Bourque: Sure, I think I'd like to go back to the beginning of COVID. And when we first started to put, to have our students learning online. And what ended up happening? The meetings would drop with their teacher. You know, there would be interruptions, there would be the you know, the frozen screen. Certainly, because there was not enough connectivity, there wasn't the capacity. As teachers got better at planning lessons, they were also including videos, or they were including hyperlinks. And the high speed capacity of many of our districts were just not able to handle that type of high speed capacity. And then, when you add to 40 teachers doing it all at the same time, then that becomes another piece that you end up losing the connection. 

Senator Warren: Yeah, that's actually a very good point. You know, this is part of the reason that Senator Markey and I were very pleased to help bring $175 million in federal funding to Massachusetts with the goal of bringing online the parts of Massachusetts that don't have access to high speed internet. Right now, it appears that the funding that we were able to bring in is going to serve about 16,000 locations in our Commonwealth. And this means Massachusetts families, Massachusetts kids who will have access and it matters. So, let me do a personal favorite, and that is federal research. 

Chancellor Chen, do you know, offhand, roughly about how much federal research funding UMass Lowell receives right now to support all of your groundbreaking scientific advances?

Chancellor Chen: Yeah, so of our $111 million annual our research, about 60% of that. Sorry about 54%, about 60 million is federal. But the other piece of that is often industry and state, and it's not separate. One of the things that's unique is we talked a lot about matching dollars and commitment, so that federal dollar piece is often matched by the industry piece and the state piece that makes up that whole bucket of 100 million a year.

Senator Warren: You know, such an important point. It's the leverage point. I was thinking about when we were talking about Logan. It's not that all the dollars came from the federal government, but if the federal government is not there to play, nobody else comes to play. And it's having all of it that then creates the jobs, creates enough to support the research, creates enough that we can get the school buses across whatever it is we need to do.

I want to talk about one piece of the funding that expanded as a result of the CHIPS and Science Act. So the CHIPS law allocated 1.6 billion to stand up regional hubs supporting the production of semiconductors and other micro technologies. And last month, we talked about this some, Massachusetts was awarded $19.7 million in funding to establish one of those regional hubs here. It's going to help Massachusetts lead the way with innovation in this cutting edge sector, and some of this work is going to take place right here at UMass Lowell. So here's my question for you, Chancellor Chen. How is the micro electronics work, being done here at UMass Lowell, going to help grow our economy and strengthen our national security? 

Chancellor Chen: Yeah, thank you for that. And, thank you Senator Warren and Senator Markey for your support of that effort. I think it speaks to one of the things that we talked about in terms of building an ecosystem. There's an opportunity, because of the funding, bringing together UMass Lowell, other universities, MIT, Northeastern. We talked about that, right? With companies in the area, it creates this ecosystem that has a virtuous cycle. And one of the things here at Lowell, we have about 80 faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates that are involved in microelectronics research. The key, I think, for Massachusetts, is that we don't have a big billion dollar fab here, right? But Massachusetts has the skill and the talent to do the value added piece. Right? How do you integrate the chip with sensors? How do you integrate as part of the cloud? How do you do that edge device, edge computing? It's that building on top of the chip that is the specialty, I think, of this Commonwealth. And a lot of that work is being done here in our printed Raytheon printed electronics in our Center for Advanced Materials and soft materials. So a lot of the faculty and students are involved in that microelectronics research. 

Senator Warren: That's terrific. 

Senator Warren’s Closing Remarks 

Senator Warren: So, I just want to say thank you again. We've talked today – long day – about infrastructure, about what it means for jobs in the economy, and our communities and resilience. 

But, this has also been a day about partnership. 

I have the best partner in the United States Senate. We are more than twice as strong. I do the Power Rangers thing. Right. 

We also have a great partner in our governor and lieutenant governor who are all hands-on-deck and ready to go. And in our mayor's who want to be part of this, but it's also about partnership with the people who've shown up as our witnesses. 

I am very grateful to you for being here, for talking about these issues that are so important to all of us. 

We have a real opportunity here. And we can't – Let me put it this way: We will do so much better if we keep strengthening these partnerships as we go forward. 

So, thank you again, to UMass Lowell, for hosting us. It's been terrific. And thank you to our witnesses. 

Questions for the record are due one week from today on Friday, October 27. For our witnesses, you have 45 days to respond to any questions. Thank you, again.